Double Dutch: Language in
the Lowlands
John Nerbonne,
Director, Linguistic Research,
University of Groningen
Curious about the Dutch? 2009
Double Dutch
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Basic facts
History
Structure
Influence on English
Varieties
Color
Future
Basic Facts about Dutch
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21 million speakers in The Netherlands and Belgium (Flanders)
– more in Suriname, Aruba, Indonesia
– approx. 140,000 in US (1990 census)
– 48th in list of most widely spoken languages (2000)
Afrikaans is related, nearly intelligible (but speakers not the
counted in the 21 mill.)
“Plattdeutsch” likewise closely related (Low German spoken in
Northern Germany)
Frisian also related, but less closely
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First documents ca. 1100 AD
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Genealogy of Dutch
In d oeu rop ean
3 ,0 0 0 B C
R om an ce
L atin , F ren ch ,...
S lavic
R u ssian , C zech ,...
W est-G erm an ic
200 BC
E n g lish
F risian
D u tch
A frikaan s
G erm an ic
N orth G erm .
S wed ish , ...
G erm an
...
E ast
G oth ic
How Do We Know Prehistory?
D u tc h
G e rm a n
E n g lis h
L a tin
voet
Fuß
fo o t
pedes
vol
v o ll
fu ll
p le n u s
v is
F is c h
fis h
p is c e s
vader
V a te r
fa th e r
p a te r
/f/
/f/
/f/
/p /
Influences
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Statenbijbel (1637) standardization
Celtic -- rijk ‘kingdom’, ijzer ‘iron’, klok
‘clock’, ambacht ‘craft’
Latin -- keizer ‘emperor’, straat ‘street’,
school ‘school’, poort ‘gateway’, pond
‘pound’, peper ‘pepper’
Frisian -- tjalk ‘small boat’, sjokken
‘trudge’, klunen ‘walk w. skates on land’,
kapen ‘capture (as a pirate)’
French Borrowings
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enquête ‘questionaire’, bureau ‘office’,
bureaucratie, administratie, officieel,
procedure
avontuur ‘adventure’, blazoen ‘coat of
arms’, lans ‘lance’, rivier ‘river’,
kampioen, ‘champion’
buffet, kasteel ‘castle’, matras ‘mattress’,
meubel ‘furniture’, feest ‘feast’,
plantsoen ‘plantation’
French Cuisine, Family
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asperge ‘asparagus’, azijn ‘vinegar’,
citroen ‘lemon’, compote ‘stewed fruit’,
fazant ‘pheasant’, meloen ‘melon’, prei
‘leek’, rijst ‘rice’, saus ‘sauce’, taart
‘cake’
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papa, mama
More Influences
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Spanish -- cargo, tornado, commando,
orkaan ‘hurricane’
Russian -- doerak ‘fool’, mammoet
‘mammoth’, apparatsjik
Japanese -- japon ‘gown’, samoerai,
sjogoen, geisha, zen, mikado
Yiddish
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smeris ‘cop’, gesjoemel ‘dishonest
dealings’, jatten ‘steal’, stiekem
‘secretly’, bajes ‘jail’, gokken ‘gamble’
smoes ‘dodge, excuse’ kapsones
‘insolence, rudeness’
lef ‘guts’, ‘mazzel ‘luck’, gein ‘joke’
mies ‘bad, poor’ tof ‘nice, fine’
Colonial Influences
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Sranan -- bo-bo ‘big shot’
Indonesian, Malaysian -- pakkie-an
‘task’, piekeren ‘worry’, pienter ‘smart’,
nasi (goreng), bami (goreng), sambal
oelek, sate, ketjap, rames
German Influences
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Medical: arts, allergie, chromosoom, secreet
`secretion’, polikliniek, heilgymnastiek
`physical therapy’, homeopathie
Psychology: autisme, paranoia, waanzin
`madness’, narcisme, gestaltpsychologie
General: Nachwuchs `younger generation’,
überhaupt, Kater (meaning hangover)
English Influences
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Too many modern borrowings to count
– Technology, politics, pop culture, science
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“Reborrowings”
– cruise `pleasure trip on a boat’
– gin `genever’made popular in England by
William of Orange (taxed French imports)
– cookie ‘entry in textual log of web browser’
“Improved” English Borrowings
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stationcar ‘station wagon’
cola light ‘diet coke’
folder ‘brochure’
liften ‘hitchhike’
globaal ‘rough’ (globale schatting)
beamer ‘lcd projector’
picknick ‘picnic’, showbizz `show biz’
lat (relatie) ‘living apart together’ relation, i.e.
that of a non-cohabitating couple
Other “improvements”
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gráfiti (note stress), maffia ‘mafia’
occasion ‘used car’ (French meaning,
English pronunciation)
Double Dutch
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Basic facts
History
Structure
Influence on English
Varieties
Color
Future
Distinctive Structure
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Sounds
Spelling
Words
Phrases
Meanings
Spanish,Russian
i
Unusual Sounds
u
o
e
a
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Diphthongs (combined vowels)
i
u
schuwe
hij
huis
nieuwe
boei
Minimal combinations
hou
Complex Combinations?
hooi
leeuw
…groeien
huis, schuwe, leeuw - involve
front rounded vowel like German
‘ue’ or French ‘u’
haai
a
Unusual Sounds
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‘harde g’ as in Groningen, lage landen
‘Low Lands’, rug ‘back’, acht (8)
noisier than German Bach, Russian
xopoшo
combination with ‘s’ used as a
Shibboleth ‘test’ for foreigners (and
spies): Scheveningen
Spelling
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Dutsj is essensjullie a Loo Sjurmennik
lenkwitsj wis det vunkie letter (det
riepleezes Y) plus a serieuslie koel
ortografie.
regular reforms,last ’95, ’06
Unusual Words
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Can anything be a verb?
– voetballen, tennissen, bridgen, sudokuen,
fitnessen, etc.
– computeren `do something w. computers’
– musiceren `make music’
– klussen `do odd jobs’
– opsexen `make sexy’
– kerken `go to church’
– uitzieken `let an illness run its course’
– rijstafelen ‘dine on rijstafel’
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gebiologeerd `biologized’ (fixated)
Can anything be diminutive?
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lam/lammetje `lamb/lammykins’
eventjes `shortly’-kins
tussendoortje `in the midst of’-kins
onder ons-je ‘[a conversation etc.]
between you and me’-kins
Endings or compounds?
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Unusual compounds (using verbs)
– koffiezetapparrat (coffee-brewV-machine) ‘coffee machine’
– brandblusinstallatie (fire-extinguishV-installation) ‘fire extinguisher’
– aardappelschilmesje (potato-peelV-knife) ‘potato peeler’
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Intensifier “prefixes”
– reuze- ‘giant’: reuze-slim ‘very smart’, reuze-leuk ‘very nice’
– wereld- ‘world’ wereld-meid ‘great girl’
– reduplication: in- en in triest ‘very sad’; dood- en doodziek ‘very ill’
(lit. ‘deathly and deathly ill’)
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Missing preposition
– lid raad van bestuur ‘member [of] council’
– hoofd communicatie ‘head [of] communications’
– adjunct directeur juridische zaken ‘adjunct dir. [of] legal affairs’
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Productive processes
– mammoet-wet ‘all-encompassing (educational) law
– -baron ‘baron’: afvalbaron ‘rich trash dealer’ (cf. Engl. ‘czar’)
– bliksem- ‘lightning’: bliksem-bezoek ‘quick visit’
Unusual Phrase Structure
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“Verb Second”
– like German
Hans gaat morgen naar huis
Hans goes tomorrow to home
‘Hans is going home tomorrow’
Morgen gaat H. naar huis
Naar huis gaat H. morgen
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vestiges in English
In the forest lived a woodsman.
Never have I been so shocked.
Unusual Phrase Structure
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Cross-Serial Dependence
Hans vermoedt dat (H. suspects that)
Piet Marie leert zwemmen
teach to swim
‘Hans suspects that P. is teaching M. to swim’
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Subject-Verb Relations Cross
Cross-Serial Dependence
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Crossing Relations Iterate
Hans vermoedt dat
Jantje Piet Marie zag leren zwemmen
saw teach swim
‘H. suspects that J. saw P. teach M. to swim.’
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Theoretically hard to process
“Repeating Construction”
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herhalingsconstructie
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We zijn het min of meer zijn we het eens
We are it
more or less are it agreed
Aka “mirror construction”, “overflow
construction” (ANS)
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Overlapping templates?
Empty sentence endings?
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Dat is de zoon van [X]. ‘That’s X’s son’ (X a
celebrity). ‘Het is Jean Sarkozy. Hij is de zoon van.
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We zullen het steunen mits [X]. ‘We’ll support it as
long as [X]’
We kunnen het niet accepteren tenzij [X]. ‘We can’t
accept it unless [X]’
U moet begrijpen dat we deze maatregelen niet
zomaar nemen, maar in het kader van [een
reorganisatie]. ‘…in the context of [a reorganisation]’
Je kunt hem schrijven, bij wijze van [spreken] ‘You
could write to him
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Unusual Meanings
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‘Negative items’ occur only with negation
– English ‘ever’, ‘any’, ‘budge’, ‘give a hoot’
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Dutch has at least 100 of these
– Groningen research Hoeksema, Zwarts
(current rector)
Double Dutch
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Basic facts
History
Structure
Influence on English
Varieties
Color
Future
Dutch Borrowings in English
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Shipping and naval
– boom, bow, buoy, commodore, cruise, dock,
freight, keel, keelhaul, pump, skipper, sloop, yacht,
smuggle
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Textiles
– bale, duck (cloth), nap, spool, stripe
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Art
– easel, etching, landscape, sketch
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War
– beleaguer, holster, freebooter, onslaught
Dutch Borrowings in English
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Food and Drink
– booze, brandy, coleslaw, cookie, crullers, waffle
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Other
– bluff, bully, boss, derrick, dollar, drill, dike,
frolic, grime, hunk, kink, runt, scum, slim,
snap, spook, stoop
Dutch Accents in English
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Dutch “English” is excellent—generally
this [dIs]/[zIs], thin [sIn]
Dutch [dytš] (like French u, German ü)
– “spelling” mispronunciation
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Bob [bop], God [got], dog [dok]
bad/bed [bεt], language [lεŋk.fItš] (Eng.
[læŋ.gwədž])
‘Dutch’ in English
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‘double Dutch’ - nonsense
‘in Dutch with her’ - in trouble with
‘Dutch treat’, ‘go Dutch’ - split costs (no treat)
‘dutchman’ - cover-up for construction error
‘Dutch courage’ - from alcohol
‘Dutch bargain’ - deal made w. alcohol
‘Dutch uncle’ - someone with unwanted advice
‘Dutch disease’ - politics of consensus (W.Laqueur)
also ‘Dutch oven’, ‘Dutch doors’ -- but mostly
negative
Double Dutch
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Basic facts
History
Structure
Influence on English
Varieties
Color
Future
Dutch Dialects
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Experts distinguish 3-5 main areas,
approx. 30 areas in total (in only 40K km2)
Frisian recognized as “minority language”
Lower Saxon, Limburgs recognized as
“regional languages”
Lay interest enormous
– clubs, songs, web sites, publications
Dutch Dialect Areas
How different are dialects from
each other?
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Standard Dutch
Groningen
Zeeland
Frisia
Flanders
Twente
Ons oude huis is afgebrand
Our old house [is] burned down
Dialect Differences
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oude / ouwe / olle
huis / hus (ü) / hoes
afgebrand / afbraat / outband / afabraat
How different are dialects from
each other?
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Standard Dutch
Groningen
Zeeland
Frisia
Flanders
Twente
De pastoor heeft goede wijn
The minister has good wine
Dialect Differences
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wijn / win
xoede / xoeje / xoje / xoeoe / hoede /
goede / beste
heeft / het / ai / hat
Other major differences
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final n ‘lopen’
– standard lope, Groningen lop’m
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hard/soft g ‘laag’, ‘Goede’
– how much “noise” in the g/ch (and how far
forward in the mouth it’s pronounced)
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aspirated (English-like) vs. unaspirated
(French-like) p,t,k
– phaard, paard
Dialects vs.
Standard Dutch
Dialect Continuum?
Double Dutch
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Basic facts
History
Structure
Influence on English
Varieties
Color
Future
Color
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Interest in Language
Coinages with cultural speculation
Humor
Obscenity/Cursing?
Idioms, Proverbs
Interest in Language
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Onze Taal - private foundation for language issues
Taalunie - government organization for questions of
standards, technology
Algemeen Woordenboek der Nederlandse Taal - 45K
pages! World’s largest Dictionary.
Six semi-regular language columns in newspapers
H u ib B o o g e rt
D e T e le g ra a f
P e te r B u rg e r
A lg e m e e n D a g b la d
J a n K u ite n b ro u w e r
V o lk s k ra n t
L ie s b e th K o e n e n
N R C H a n d e ls b la d
W im D a n ie ls
E in d h o v e n s D a g b la d
E w o u d S a n d e rs
N e d e rla n d s S ta d s c o u ra n t
Interest in Language
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Foreign languages
– 5 in college-prep. schools (gymnasia)
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Excellent facility with English (even TV)
Foreigners trying to learn Dutch find it
difficult to find Dutch who are willing
(they all want to practice English)
– but Dutch are critical of foreign residents
“who don’t take the trouble to learn Dutch”
Culture & Coinage
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vergadercultuur - ‘meetings culture’
alle neuzen dezelfde kant op - ‘all noses in the same
direction’ -- the goal of decision makers is consensus
gedoogbeleid - ‘policy of tolerance’, esp. w.r.t. soft
drugs & sex, sometimes also w.r.t. zoning & safety
maaiveld ‘mowing field’ - whatever pokes out above
the rest is cut back
– derogatory terms for show-offs, braggarts, etc - kapsones;
kakkineus, elitair of dik doen; opscheppen; naast je
schoenen lopen; spatjes hebben; jezelf op de borst kloppen
Culture and Coinage
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inspanningsverplichting - ‘responsibility to try’
verworven rechten - ‘acquired rights’
planologie - ‘urban planning’
onthutst, verontwaardigd, verbijsterd, ontgoocheld lots of words covering indignation
wildplassen ‘urination outside usual facilities’
Humor
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About the Dutch - miserly
– How to break up a demonstration? Pass a
collection plate.
– Why are Dutch nostrils so big? --The air is free.
– What’s a Dutchman do if he wins the lottery?
--Recounts the money.
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In fact the Dutch donate generously
Dutch Humor
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Strong “maaiveld” streak -- humor that
cuts big shots down to size
“Gonzo” elements, free fantasy
– Youp van ‘t Hek on Maxima even makes
fun of the royal family (uncommon target)
Everyone loves Cruijff
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"Italianen kennen niet van je winnen,
maar je ken wel van ze verliezen.”
(Italians can’t beat you, but you can lose
to them.)
“Als je wilt scoren, moet je schieten” (If
you want to score, you have to shoot)
“Ieder nadeel heeft z’n voordeel” (Every
disadvantage has its advantage)
Obscenity/Cursing
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lots of cursing, obscenity
obscenities focus on genital rather anal area
less sensitive
– no “forbidden words” for radio, TV
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cursing - wishing disease
– krijg de tering/kanker/tyfus/pokken/stuipen/beroerte! `get
TB/cancer/typhoid/smallpox/convulsions/stroke’
– Van der Waals ‘Dutch Terms of Abuse’ Maledicta 13, 2005
• Ellending, Pestpokkentyfuskankerteringwijf!
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Bond tegen het Vloeken ‘Anti-Cursing League’
campaigns in train stations
– religious focus
Idioms and Proverbs
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Appreciated in speech and prose
Idioms often based on water and shipping
Water
Dat zet geen zoden aan de dijk
That sets no sod on the dike
That doesn’t help.
oude koeien uit het sloot halen
old cows out of the trench haul
Bring up painful memories
van de wal
in de sloot
from the bank into the trench
out of the frying pan, into the fire
Idioms and Proverbs
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Idioms based on shipping, fishing
tussen wal en schip vallen
between shore and ship fall
fall between the cracks
de beste stuurlui staan aan de wal
the best helmsmen stand ashore
Talk is cheap
Achter het net vissen
behind the net fish
go through the motions with little chance of success
Idioms and Proverbs
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Idioms based on shipping, fishing
de boot missen, afhouden
miss the boat, keep the boat away
miss an opportunity, prevent something happening
de stormbal hijsen
Hoist the storm ball
Warn of impending danger
het roer omgooien
turn the rudder
change radically
Proverbs
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Pieter Brueghel the Younger (15641638) created a painting dedicated to
Proverbs
Copied his father’s work
Many other versions -- popular topic
Dutch -- The Future
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Unrest about influence of English
– Minister of Education Ritzen proposed that universities
switch to English (1993)
– Lots of English in everyday Dutch
• Ik heb alle hits gedownload van de web
• I downloaded all the hits from the web
– English “more attractive” in experiments, but not more
reliable, knowledgeable
Giftshop Marianne / Cadeauwinkel Marianne
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Will Dutch survive? --Unquestionably.
A Bit of Gronings
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Groningers known for laconic understatement
Het kon minder
-- high praise
‘It could have been less’
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unlike Eng. ‘It could have been worse’
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My wish: when you summarize your stay
here, you’ll want to say “Het kon minder”
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Double Dutch: Language in the Lowlands